As the projects get bigger, the budgets expand and more people’s jobs are on the line, you jump through more hoops as a composer. That’s not necessarily bad. It just means that the iterative process becomes longer.
When I was hired to create the music score for Rise Of Legends (ROL), I had already proven my composing and producing skills on many other games. This game had the fortunate circumstance of having a big budget for the music score. While I did have a budget for live musicians on Rise Of Nations, it was not big enough to hire live recording session musicians for every part. But as you gain more experience, people tend to gain trust in your abilities.
When you get to the point of managing a large music budget, there are lots of checks and balances that go along with it, every step of the way. So in ROL, I didn’t just start composing full-length music cues. I was presented with a rough script and concept art that depicted the direction the game was going. I was then asked to come up with a number of short themes that might support that direction.
This can be a double-edged sword for a composer, or any other creative person. On the plus side, you have an opportunity to come up with a lot of ideas in a short format that might work in the project and actually help steer its direction. And when the creative spark hits other team members in the project, great things can happen. But the down side is that the creative flow is interrupted. Composing is often a matter of following your gut emotions and interpreting them in musical form. Those emotions can be lost if you stop, then go back to finish the piece that you started weeks or months ago.
While researching this blog, I took a listen to the initial themes that I came up with for ROL. It was interesting to hear that one actually made it into the game as written. The rest of these themes were used as a starting point to create music cues that ended up in the game. There are other short themes out of the original 15 that were never used because the emotional connection to that feeling had passed and couldn’t be restored.
But you never know when listening to those short cues which ideas might reignite a fire in the future. Always press that “record” button. Always save those files. Because you never know when they will inspire you to finish your original thought.
This YouTube video is a montage of my favorite short themes that I created electronically for ROL in my studio in Woodinville, WA.